Practice your Vietnamese ahead of Doi Moi’s Aug. 27 opening

August 15, 2013

First things first: The way to pronounce the name of the Asian street-food inspired restaurant Doi Moi is not the phonetic "doy moy," or the French "mwah." It's a subtler "doy mu-uy," says chef Haidar Karoum, who comes to the new restaurant from Estadio, a few blocks away.


Haidar Karoum (James M. Thresher/For The Washington Post)

"If you think of the way way to pronounce 'pho,' you say 'fuhh'. You pick up the vowel," he said. "It's going to be tricky, and I don't expect people to pronounce it properly off the bat unless they know the word."

So, practice your Vietnamese for a Tuesday, Aug. 27 opening for this 14th Street restaurant, which draws from Karoum's travels through Thailand and Vietnam -- as well as experiences closer to home, from his time as an executive chef at Asia Nora, and even childhood meals at Eden Center in Falls Church. Karoum has once again teamed up with restaurateur Mark Kuller, as they did for Proof and Estadio.

Though the menu will be influenced by street food, noodles, curries and rice dishes will be prominent as well. He's finalizing the menu, but one of the dishes he's sure he'll open with is hoi tod, a Thai crepe filled with mussels and bean sprouts and topped with sriracha and sweet chili sauce. He bought one from a street vendor on his trip to Bangkok, and "It's a dish I really fell in love with there," he said. Also on the menu: Bun bo xao, a lemongrass beef with vermicelli; finger foods, like satay skewers; and a Thai beef jerky ready for dunking in spicy jeow sauce.

For dessert, guests can cool off in the last days of summer with some layered shaved ice, called che ba mau. But an even more popular feature of the restaurant is bound to be the two-flavor swirled soft-serve machine that Karoum says will arrive at the restaurant any day now. He's already brainstormed a list of nearly 30 Asian-inspired flavors to make for the machine: Sticky rice, mango, durian, lychee, Vietnamese coffee, "something with tamarind," banana, avocado; "I could just keep going," he says. "The two flavors can't be too strange together. We're thinking about flavors that will work well."

Adam Bernbach, formerly the bar manager at Proof, has developed the menu for the restaurant's bar and 2 Birds, 1 Stone, a sister bar which will open a few days after Doi Moi and have its own side entrance. "Upstairs, the menu's going to be very much rooted in Southeast Asian flavors," Bernbach said. Among them: infused sodas like coconut, passion fruit and tamarind, and a peanut-infused bourbon, all house made. Downstairs at 2 Birds, 1 Stone, you'll see a greater variety of influences: classic drinks like a whiskey sour will mingle with the Asian flavors seen upstairs. A bar menu will feature finger foods, like satay skewers and crispy dumplings.

As for that tough-to-pronounce name: International affairs majors have probably recognized it as a nod to the period of economic and social reform in Vietnam in 1986. The name was also chosen as a hat-tip to the rapid changes that have taken place on 14th Street in the last 10 years.

"Every day it strikes me how crazy this strip has changed," said Karoum. "I'm looking outside and there's far more people walking down the street at this time [1 p.m.] than there were two years ago. It's Thursday and it almost looks like a Saturday."

The increase in weekday foot traffic is a phenomenon Karoum plans to take advantage of. Though the restaurant will open with dinner only, it will eventually add brunch and weekday lunch. Want a sneak peek before the opening on the 27th? You can get tickets to an Aug. 25 dinner benefiting Brainfood, a local nonprofit youth development organization. Tickets to one of the three seatings -- at 6, 7:15 and 8:30 p.m. -- can be reserved through the Brainfood Web site for a minimum $100 donation.

Doi Moi, 1800 14th Street NW. 

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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